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Absorbing, haunting and gorgeous.
david-winborn13 May 2006
Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick decided to make the 'proverbial good sci-fi movie' when they jointly created the film and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. There have been few comparably good sci-fi films since. Solaris is, however, one of them.

Whilst the Russian original is an epic and demanding film, Soderbergh's work should not be considered a remake. The director himself considers it his own interpretation of the book, quite apart from the earlier film. Because of this, the two should not be compared.

If you hated Alien 3 because it didn't have any guns or 2001 because the ending was confusing, do not waste your time with Solaris. It is not for you.

Conceptually, the story is standard psychological sci-fi fare, with simple but effective theological and philosophical themes. In this respect it breaks little or no new ground over the Tarkovsky predecessor. It has elements of romance, thriller, and drama, all necessarily set in sci-fi land, as the setting is integral to the storytelling.

Visually, the Solaris future is a conservative, believable vision, reminiscent in look to that of Gatacca. Solaris space is a minimal, beautiful place to be. Not dirty and used like the celebrated Alien 'space trucker' look, Solaris vessels are gleaming, intricate and stylish, but seem to have been designed by engineers rather than artists, such is the practical realism. Their design is complemented by some of the best CG spaceship effects I have seen (incredible that it has taken this long for computer graphics to look as good as the model-based technology of 2001, Star Wars and Aliens in the 1960s and 70s).

Solaris, the planet itself, is a clever piece of art, seemingly evidencing a degree of emotion by its colouring and detail, as no doubt was the intention. In the commentary to the DVD it is mentioned that many of the lingering shots of the planet were cut, which may have been necessary for the pacing of the film, but I found every shot an absorbing spectacle and would have enjoyed more.

The sets and costumes also retain the sense of engineering realism combined with beauty. Soderbergh's eye for detail is evident here, as everything has a purpose and look that fits perfectly with the overall feel. Somehow, this look is original and avoids many of the clichés we come to expect of sci-fi mise-en-scene.

Channel Four recently showed this on UK television and billed it along the lines of a 'George Clooney Sci-Fi Romance'. A tenuous interpretation, perhaps, but you can see why they did it. Whilst Clooney adds Hollywood star appeal, fans will be slightly disappointed, not because his work here is in anyway weak, but because he is understated, convincing and very un-Hollywood. With Solaris he adds another fine performance to an already commendably diverse filmography.

Natascha McElhone too plays a difficult, emotive role without resorting to melodrama. The small supporting cast doesn't put a foot wrong, with a delightfully odd but subtly creepy performance from Jeremy Davies worthy of note.

Solaris is slow, abstract, haunting stuff. The direction is subtle, dare I say almost Kubrick-esquire. The camera work is non-intrusive, solid stuff without gimmick (apart from a touch of shaky-cam in the restaurant scene where Kelvin meets Rheya) or overstatement.

Add to this a beautiful, timeless score by Cliff Martinez and you have one of the better psychological sci-fi movies ever made.

The majority of people will hate Solaris. Let them. Let them have instead the mindless Hollywood trash released every week and keep this treasure for yourself.
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Powerful, thought-provoking metaphysical journey - A great remake.
mstomaso4 May 2005
My two favorite examples of Hollywood utterly destroying GREAT foreign films are Vanilla Sky and City of Angels, which were abominations of two of my favorite films - Open Your Eyes and Wings of Desire. If you've seen Tarkovsky's brilliant "Solyaris" this film will seem more like an Americanized tribute than a Hollywoodization of a great piece of Soviet cinema. Some will likely ask why Soderbergh bothered to make this film if he couldn't improve on the original. Personally, I could not care less. This is a great film, and shows that it is possible for Americans to remake classic non-American films sensitively, intelligently and well.

To cut to the chase - if you like sci-fi with a soul,which stretches the boundaries of imagination, explores the uncharted realms of the human condition as much as the unknown realities of the universe, and swims upstream against the currents of ethics, physics, and even metaphysics, you will probably enjoy this moody, slow, multi-leveled and heavily textured film. If you're looking for light entertainment, stay away from this. This is a slow, intense film - dominated by dialog - and there is no action to speak of. Also, you need to let this movie pour into you slowly, so if you're not in the right frame of mind to pay attention and be receptive, you should save it for another occasion.

The cast is exceptionally good. This is unequivocally the best performance I have seen out of George Clooney, but the supporting cast and the female lead all blew me away. Soderbergh does have a talent for making actor's look good, even mediocre actors, but there is nothing mediocre about any of the performances in this film.

Though I recognize his talent, Soderberg's dialogical technique has worn particularly thin with me. The once fresh fast-paced, rapid-fire cuts and close-ups with the low-toned exchange of sentence fragments, and the myriad Soderberg imitators, particularly in television crime drama, have really gotten on my nerves. Solaris, however, is a bit different. There are only a few "Soderbergh moments" in this rich remake of the classic bit of 1970s soviet SciFi "Solyaris". Both films are based on a novella by the brilliant Stanislaw Lem. This film, perhaps even more than Tarkovsky's 1972 edgy, dark, and intense original, will appeal to exactly the sort of movie-goer that Lem's writing appeals to. Neither film captures Lem's quirky sense of humor. I am quite glad that Soderbergh chose to make Solaris with very much the same atmospheric eeriness, plot, and intellectual and emotional depth as the original. It is a tribute to his artistic integrity that he recognizes the brilliance of the original work, and imitates it wherever he can do no better, adding subtle and appropriate nuances and embellishments to make it his own. Some examples are the wonderfully minimalistic soundtrack, and the very Soderbergh symbolic use of lighting and color saturation to shift from the retrospective to the live-action shot. Perhaps the best tribute I can give this film is the fact that I am going to watch the original again in a few days for comparative purposes.

In other words, this isn't going to be for everybody, nor, even, for most. I am hardly surprised by the very low (in my opinion) ratings received by this film here on IMDb. Solaris is a love story, a story of exploring the fringes of sanity, and of questioning the very nature of reality, and much more. Enjoy it!
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Intriguing mood piece
Buddy-518 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Since nobody had the wherewithal or wisdom to re-release `2001' in the actual year 2001, a remake of Andrei Tarkovsky's comparable `Solaris' in 2002 would seem the next best thing. Like those two earlier films, Steven Soderbergh's latest work is something of an `art' science fiction film, far more concerned with philosophy and theme than with action and suspense. This may make the film a tough slog for modern day audiences who have been conditioned to be jolted out of their seats every five minutes while watching films of this genre. But for the deeper thinkers among us, `Solaris' offers a fairly intriguing sci-fi vision of the afterlife, a sort of new religious paradigm for the twenty-first century.

George Clooney stars as Chris Kelvin, a successful psychiatrist whose mentally ill wife - ironically enough, given his profession - killed herself a few years back. Chris is commissioned to travel to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris after strange things begin happening to the crew aboard the ship. It turns out that dead loved ones have started appearing to the people there, leading a number of the crewmembers to descend into madness and, in the worst cases, even commit suicide. It's not long before Chris' own dead wife, Rheya, arrives on the scene, prompting him to question whether she is real, a replica created for an unknown reason by the forces of the mysterious planet, or merely a figment of his own troubled conscience and imagination. The film taps into that desire we all have of somehow being miraculously reunited with a deceased love one. We can't help but be moved by Chris' intense desire to believe that all that is happening is real and that life with this person could indeed start back up where it left off. Clooney does a beautiful job conveying the inner struggle between the grieving husband who wants to reconnect emotionally with this strangely familiar woman whom he had thought forever lost to him and the rationalistic scientist who suspects that both she and their relationship are illusory and ephemeral. The film itself may be glacially paced, but the tension created by the situation pulls us through. Natascha McElhone brings an ethereal beauty to the role of the dead wife, and we are moved by her own confusion as to whether she is really this woman Rheya or merely some fabrication usurping the memories and feelings of someone long gone from the scene. Clooney and McElhone generate a strong romantic chemistry between them, both in the scenes aboard the ship and in the manifold flashbacks the storytellers use to reveal their relationship back on Earth. Viola Davis gives an intense performance as Helen Gordon, the rationalist of the group who tries to convince Chris that he must overcome his feelings and destroy this facsimile of Rheya or risk bringing potential destruction to the people back home.

`Solaris' has been shot in the widest screen ratio I have seen in years. It almost feels like one of those old Cinerama pictures from the 1950's and 1960's, which is surprising actually, given the fact that, for all its outer space trappings, the film is really an intimate, personal drama in quality and scale (if you rent this on video, do NOT opt for the `full screen' treatment; rather, make sure it is in the letterboxed format). Also, the set design and special effects are actually rather understated for a modern science fiction film – as is everything about `Solaris' in fact. Like `2001,' `Solaris' is filled with images and concepts whose significance and meaning aren't always readily apparent or easily spelled out for the audience. Just be forewarned that the film is more along the lines of a tone poem than a rip-roaring action adventure tale.

`Solaris' isn't a great film and I can certainly see why many people, expecting something different, might find themselves becoming restive and bored by it. For me, the film managed to seep under my skin and kept me interested most of the time. This is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but for those with patience and an appreciation for something a little different, `Solaris' has its share of rewards.
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SF for the Blade Runner/2001 crowd... not necessarily for the Star Wars crowd
Surecure27 June 2004
First off, if you are looking for shoot 'em up, space ship flying through the stars, hunting aliens type of science fiction, don't even bother with this film. If you are looking for a Science Fiction film that explores the human condition in the way that Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey or Contact does, then this is right up your alley.

This film is not about events and actions, it's about ideas and concepts. People looking for plot points to move them along will be bored to death with this film because most of the action of this film are those that will happen in your head. It is about people, desires, regrets and what we would be willing to do if we could have that one thing we cannot have back.

Some people complain about the fact that Clooney's character of Chris does very little psychiatric work in this film. But, the truth of the matter is that his occupation is used more to propel his anti-faith views. I haven't seen it mentioned, but there is a reason why there are a lot of discussion about God, religion and faith in this film.

Throughout the film, Chris questions and belittles Rheya's religious views, seeing the idea of putting stock in something that he sees as fantasy as being useless and just a crutch for people deluding themselves into a happiness based on illusion. Chris comes to realize that he would give up anything to be with Rheya, whether being with her is an illusion or not. His happiness depends on her, and he realizes that accepting what he needs is not a weakness -- as accepting faith is not a weakness -- it is simply a choice to fulfill one's life, whether it be real or illusion. And, as philosophers would argue, who can really say which is which?

For those who want a science fiction film to make you think (like Blade Runner does), this film is it. With a tremendous cast, beautiful production design, excellent direction, and one of the best film scores in recent years (hats off to Cliff Martinez), I have no trouble recommending this film to anybody who is in the need of an intelligent, thought-provoking film.
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Disappointing if you've read the book; baffling if you haven't
charles_knouse3 September 2003
Since I had just read Lem's novel Solaris and had in the past seen the 1972 Russian movie Solyaris, I was interested in seeing the new Solaris. Someone not familiar with the story may well be baffled by the movie. Those who have read the book will recognize the plot up to close to the end, where the movie veers off in its own attempt for a resolution that Lem did not seem to think necessary to provide in the novel.

I was disappointed that the movie had almost nothing to say or show about the sentient ocean of Solaris and humanity's failure to comprehend it. The book went into great detail in describing the fantastic phenomena of the ocean and the various failed theories to explain them. In fact I think that was the central theme of the book which is almost completely lost in the movie.
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It's emotions and reactions - terrifically engaging!
janyeap26 November 2002
The state of human minds has always been so abstract and never easy an easy subject to comprehend. It's even more complex to decipher on screen. Nope, this film is not strictly a ghost story, nor is it a Star Trek adventure story to interest most science-fiction craving fans. Don't expect to see the usual Hollywood sweet romantic tale either! This film focuses on the psychological journey faced by the despaired and unstable minds. It's a film that totally relies on the characters' emotions and reactions. Awesome!

Has Steven Soderbergh succeeded in sprucing up Andrei Tarkovski's 1972 psychological cult sci-fi classic to make it worth the while to pay a regular price of a tix? Can't really say, as I've never seen the Russian version. But I was truly mesmerized by this film's approach to what, I think, is the study of human insanity slipping beyond saving.

The film is slow in pace and lengthy, with stretches of tedious silence, letting the imagination of the viewers try understand what happened to each of the characters seen, or heard. Silence comes with such intensity that it works very proficiently in this film. There are dazzlingly and ecstatically artistic visual moments to offer that dreamlike stance. At other times, Soderbergh provides a more solid spectrum allowing the viewers to grasp intellectually the conflicts faced by the human minds - Kelvin, Snow and Gordon - as a result of some traumatically emotional events. Viewers are told that Dr. Gibarian has already committed suicide. These may all be psychologists, but they all seem to exhibit signs of stress and paranoia. Oh yes, the psychological intent of the film's contents is truly complex and we are slowly led to see who will finally be capable of making the right choice, and escape insanity. Earth, presumably, is a symbol of normality!

It's about the existential exploration of the minds' sufferings, almost as if the memories of the human mind are being driven to a test. It's reliving a past and letting memories play tricks on the minds. It's living on regrets, hoping they could rewind the clock backward to bring about changes to events that are gradually driving the victims to complete madness. Indeed, a very haunting! Almost like the work of Bergman, Ophuls, Kubrick, and Welles, Soderbergh brings a well-crafted mysticism to the screen.... as if to to say that only one out of many entering a mental asylum can ever hoped to be cured. This film is very hypnotically effective and unique! Solaris - seemingly like an alien memory-stimulating anthropomorphic life form - is so eerily powerful on the screen. It's the `mirror that reflects' what the mind is not willing to forget. It's the driving force to the human insanity.

George Clooney is simply awesome. Follow his Kelvin as he deals with the issues of love, fear and death. It deals with his choice to throw away every memory of his past or to cling to them. That's to say he has the choice to allow his memories to manipulate him, or throw them out altogether. I find it hardly possible not to get totally absorbed with Clooney's character. Scary as it may sound, ghostly memories are never easy to shake off and thus lead men to more deadly conditions. Sometimes for these beings, their choice of death becomes their ultimate solution of finding peace. The performances of the ensemble of cast are solid, but the dialogue is the strength of the film, providing hints to what actually is happening to the characters.

An intriguingly engaging film - that's my opinion, of course! The narrative progression is nicely eloquent and the ending is impressive - providing the viewers with the feeling of having unraveled the mystery and capture the relief. It's certainly not a film for everybody... especially for those who dislike deciphering abstract ploys in films. Readers of Jung and Freud may find this film interesting as it supports the theory that conflict arises within the mind, mental health and illness, dominance, creativity and hearing voices. Fan of Clooney may miss his usual extraordinary charm and wit, but I'd say, thumbs up to him for his courageous choice to engage the viewers with his talent in exhibiting his emotional expressions.

A brilliant film!
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Thought-provoking, powerful and evocative film
keyspoet21 December 2003
I rented this film, then did some last minute Christmas shopping. While I was gone, my husband watched the first half of "Solaris" and turned it off - twice. He then watched "Terminator 3," which he enjoyed.

After he went off to bed. I started "Solaris." Unlike my husband, I was hooked from the start, and thoroughly enjoyed being reeled in. This is what I look for in a film - a compelling, nuanced story, involving complex characters. Perhaps it appealed to me more than to some, because I have lost several loved ones in recent years, including my father who died three years ago today, and am therefore wrestling with the same questions pondered in the film. Or perhaps I'm just a sucker for a good story, deftly told.

I don't think we would have necessarily had a better or worse film had Cameron written the screenplay, merely a different film altogether. I give him more credit than many on this board, as "The Abyss" is and remains a favorite film of mine, and only defied the laws of physics a few times. ;-) Certainly "The Abyss" is a quieter and more introspective film than the Terminator series, but then again, the films do examine the same themes. It might have been interesting to see what Cameron would have done with "Solaris," hopefully sans car chases.

Personally, I am glad Soderbergh wrote this version, as there is very little I would change. I enjoyed every minute of it. The musical score captured and enhanced the atmosphere quite well. I remember hearing about the original "Solaris," which came out the year I started high school, but I never saw it. Having now seen this version, I'll make it a point to do so, and I'll read the book as well. I will definitely be adding this film to my collection.

As for my husband, I probably won't recommend that he see it right away. Instead, I'll let him see it over time, as he did "The Shipping News," which also put him off initially. Once he got past the move to Newfoundland, he began to understand the humor I saw in the film, but he still despises its more depressing aspects. Still, he considers my taste in films weird, and to date understands neither my love for "Jacob's Ladder" nor my devotion to "Six Feet Under."

But then, he doesn't like jazz, either. ;-)
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read the novel
elvindill24 March 2003
While Soderbergh's Solaris may well be a work of art in its own right, I certainly pity those who haven't read the book or at least seen Tarkovsky's 1972 original adaptation, which is a lot more faithful to Lem's novel in its scope, if not in its vision. Soderbergh has managed to leave out just about everything that could justify the title (as Lem himself put it, if he had set out to write a book about space romance, he would have called it Love in Outer Space, not Solaris). So if you want to know the story, go and read the novel.

That said, I enjoyed Jeremy Davis as Snow, and the score is very good.
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Neither bored nor enthralled me
bilahn17 July 2006
I always find it interesting to approach a movie that has people so polarized - in this case "it was sooooo slow" vs. "uplifting and incredible." That seems to go for the critics as well. My reaction was neither.

I am predisposed to like this kind of science fiction - the low key and wonderful "Gattaca" comes to mind. I found the story very intriguing and atmospheric and it held my interest - at the same time I felt something was missing and it just wasn't as rich, complex and good as it should have been.

I am not sure why, I think the key for me is that I was not able to really get emotionally involved with the love story - and this is first and foremost a love story. I have trouble with most love stories, due to my own particular biases, so there has to be a lot there to really identify with it. I think the problem here was the casting and acting - it could have been a lot better. The woman playing Gordon was rather flat as well.

Also the script was a little too obvious.

All in all, an interesting film that I am glad I saw, but I can't really get worked up about it.
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do they really read the book ?
dimka7524 March 2003
do they really read the book ? The movie shows us only 2 pages from original book of Stanislaw Lem. Only 2 pages describes the love story, but Soderbergh decided to make the whole movie based on it. Why ? Where is the real sense of Solaris from Stanislaw Lem ? Where is Drama and Sci-Fi ? it is only cheap Romance. I'm quite sure he never read the book. I was forced to stop the movie after 34 minutes. I would like to give -1 point to it, but, unfortunately the minimum is 1. My suggestion - watch the movie "Solyaris" from Andrei Tarkovsky (10 points).
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An interesting statement about the inability to let go
mentalcritic18 November 2004
As a science fiction film, Solaris follows the same rule as the best of the genre, namely that it isn't the creatures or technology that makes the viewers want to watch, it is the human drama. Which is just as well, because the film itself is slower than the proverbial wet week, in spite of being less than a hundred minutes in length. Nonetheless, I will be very interested to see future projects from Steven Soderbergh.

The plot revolves around a psychologist who is suffering deep emotional problems, which mainly seem to revolve around the suicide of his wife. So when he is floating aimlessly around a spaceship that orbits the titular planet, apparitions of his wife begin appearing. From what I am able to discern, an alien intelligence is trying to take over the ship's crew, in the hope that the ship will return to Earth and take them with it. Of course, the crew have other ideas.

In essence, it sounds a lot like the basic plot for Alien, minus the violence. Alien has a degree of violence, most of which is implied, and so too does Solaris. The difference here is that the violence is not essential to the plot. In fact, aside from a couple of corpses, you never really get to see any. Instead, we are given a good deal of exposition regarding the doctor's feelings regarding his wife and what he would do to have her back in any shape or form. When the Solaris alien appears in his cabin, it tells him everything he wants to hear, and appears exactly as he desires.

The big question posed by the film is whether we are the sum of how we, and more importantly other people, remember us, or whether there's more that defines our reality. Having struggled with other people's wrong impressions of me for most of my life, I have often pondered this question myself. When the apparition-clone of Rheya is suddenly deciding that it would be best for her and Chris if she no longer existed in this form, she asks simply if she has simply been slapped together from Chris' memories or desires. Nobody ever knows all there is to know about another person, and that's what makes the surrealism of the story so compelling.

I gave Solaris a seven out of ten. It was slow, and it could have been at least ten minutes longer, but it works as a nice little piece of thinking entertainment. Give it a once over, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
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Pointless self indulgence
stuart-28827 June 2008
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course - but I am simply astonished that this film has received so many positive comments here. I have not read the novel on which the film is based and I have watched Tarkovsky's version twice (because it demands it), but by judging this 'Solaris' on its own merits, I think this version is simply a load of old plop. Here's why: this version concentrates almost entirely on the love story at its centre and to carry its ideas through successfully, the relationship at its core has to be believable - which it clearly isn't. There is simply no chemistry at all between the two leads; I've seen more sexual sparks created between Shaggy and Scooby. And whilst George Clooney is competent enough - he's certainly no Donatas Banionis. And the casting of Natasha McElhone is a complete disaster. Why that irritating smug grin throughout the film? A futile exercise in wasting everyone's time and money. Avoid.
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Call It Something Else, Because It Ain't Solaris
Kevin_K3 June 2008
Having read the book before I saw this I though it was a huge disappointment. They completely missed the point of the story, which was philosophical rather than emotional. Basically, the movie took an awe-inspiring "what if" thought experiment - of finding a very advanced non-human intelligence (which, surprise surprise, doesn't have two arms, two legs, a body and a head) and the problems of trying to communicate with such a radically different being, especially when it doesn't seem interested in communication, and how we can relate to it with our own limited human experience, and squeezed out all the juicy intellectual bits. Solaris was supposed to be the real star of the story and the screenplay instead turned it into background wallpaper. All that was left then, was a sappy love story set in space. It is frustrating to think about the potential that was wasted. Mr. Soderbergh could have made a classic sci-fi film here, if only he'd made an honest attempt.

The funny thing is, if I hadn't read the book I would have liked the film, because it is well directed and has a nice atmospheric mood. There's nothing inherently wrong with love stories either. Just.. call it something other than Solaris, give the characters different names, don't do anything to remind me of the original story and I'd say it is a good movie. But as it is, it's an extreme disappointment.
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In space, no one can hear you snore.
NewDivide170129 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One tag-line for this movie is "There are some places man is not ready to go," like into the theatre playing this movie. The other tag-line is "How far will you go for a second chance?" Apparently as far as death by boredom.

This movie is about regret, consequences, and redemption. Regret for actually seeing it. Consequences, waste of an afternoon and money for the DVD rental. Redemption, none.

According to the director, Steven Soderbergh, the movie concentrates on the love George Clooney's character feels for his dead wife. And how far he will go to be with her again. But all he did was take 15-20 minutes of useful story, and stretched it into a 90 minute movie by adding on 70 minutes of useless garbage. Also, it seems as though he ignored the enigma of the living planet Solaris.

Where the whole story could have been made on an episode of the Outer Limits, only a part of the story was used into making a major snooze fest.
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A cafe house/minimalist version of Stanislaw Lem's story
Maciste_Brother18 November 2003
SOLARIS, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring George Clooney, is one of those pointless remakes Hollywood has been making these past decades that adds almost nothing to the original classic. The movie itself is good. Not great or even close to being bad or a misfire, just good. Soderbergh basically boiled down the complex and epic story, as seen in the Russian film, into a simple MINIMALISTIC love story. Which made me wonder why did they even bother remaking the movie if all the science-fiction and metaphysical elements were thrown out? The story could have easily taken place entirely on earth. And instead of Solaris, the story could have been set in a mystical setting, like a haunted castle or an ancient archeological find. If you're going to set in space, might as well give the outer space aspect some sort of meaning to it. The minimalistic approach is interesting but the result is pointless. Having Rheya come back from the dead, sort of speaking, and her problems adjusting to her new reality reminded me a lot of the replicants' plight in BLADE RUNNER, which is what I think Soderbergh tried to do here. Who's reality is it?

My only criticism about the movie is the use of dreams and flashbacks. In the film, the Solaris planet takes a person's main dream while they're sleeping (there's even silly close-up shots of Clooney's cranium). These dreams are seen as "flashback" in the movie. Dreams are rarely that linear. One doesn't dream about one specific thing or person (in this case Kelvin dreaming about Rheya) all the time. And dreams are impressions of reality. So when Rheya comes back, looking exactly like Kelvin's wife, for me this points out to an obvious weakness in the whole concept of the Solaris planet going into a person's mind and grabbing their version of reality. If this was the case, the reincarnated Rheya should have looked slightly different that the Rheya on earth. Oddly enough, the way Soderbergh approached the idea of a planet reincarnating a long lost loved one into flesh reminded me of the SPACE 1999 episode, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, more than the Tarkovsky movie. But I find that the SPACE 1999 episode, even with all its faults, was more epic and poignant than Soderbergh's version of the Stanislaw Lem's story. There's just something anal retentive about Soderbergh's direction which prevents any kind of emotions to seep to the surface.

Unlike most people though, I wasn't bored at all with SOLARIS. In fact, movies like ARMAGEDDON, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK 2 or THE CORE were a thousand times more boring than this flick. It's just that the film's outcome is so predictable and that the script and filmmaker did nothing to alleviate this predictability that the pointlessness of the whole project comes to the fore. Good beginning. Predictable and flat ending.

And then there's another odd point about Soderbergh's SOLARIS: where did the money go? The film reportedly cost $80 to $100 million to make. The cast is tiny (four or five actors). There are very few special effects and the sets look like your standard spaceship sets you see on a TV show like STAR TREK VOYAGER. Why spend that huge amount of money on a simple, predictable love story? The film should have cost $30 to $40 million, not $100.

I love the Russian film a lot. But I can't say that Soderbergh create a disaster here or disservice to the Russian version or the book. It is a typically Soderbergh flick, which, on this aspect alone, sets it apart from the Russian movie. And like I've said, the film by itself is good. But in the end, it looks more like an episode of SPACE 1999 or THE TWILIGHT ZONE than a real movie.
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One man's search for meaning.
blanchjoe9 December 2005
What does it mean to be? Is the sense of individuated existence, that sense of being an "I" over and against and within a universe of things and processes that are not "I" real or is it an illusion? In both versions of the film Solaris this subject is explored.

Solaris is not a discussion upon the classic What Is Reality inquiry, but instead does a wonderful job of examining the question of what does it mean to be ourselves, and what is it about ourselves that is unique or even real? The planet Solaris becomes an artistic representation of the true Unknown, and the unknown is that state in which we all exist in, but in which we create forms of meaning to encapsulate the mystery of this moment within the illusion of the Known.

Solaris presents through its actions and its very existence a format for the characters, and the viewers, to examine what it means to live safely within the illusion of the Known, but where the reality is actually an existence in which the Known is not a possibility.

Do not approach this film with the intention of understanding some final conclusion, for like life itself, it is the writers intention that we question our assumptions about this movie, and possibly about our own lives as well.
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Eternity has just gotten a new name.
ailinon7 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Reading the reviews of this movie, I cannot help but recall a short comedy clip which I saw somewhere. It featured a modern art gallery, full of well-dressed high-class people, walking around and commenting on various wacky paintings, until the camera pans over to several elderly men surrounding another example of art on another wall. They point at it, comment how surrealistic it is, how the author managed to capture this and that, how perfect and how brilliant it is - until the "painting" begins moving, and drives off, it being just a piece of a soft drink advert pinned to the side of a truck that was parked outside a gallery window.

"Deliberately slow-paced"? I don't mind slow-paced movies, not at all, but watching minute after minute of slow walking and talking about nothing in particular while the important issues remain completely unmentioned, is a bit too much. "Brilliant in its meaning"? _What_ meaning, excuse me? I cannot find any possible interesting explanation of its ending, really - the only two meanings I can see is one horribly shallow, cheap sappy excuse for a romantic sacrifice dressed in an old "meaning of humanity" robe, or a big twist beyond any possible reasoning. The former being surprisingly more likely.

** SPOILERS ** - my quick overview of what, in my opinion, went wrong in the movie.

First of all, who in their right mind sends a single civilian to a space station, when previously a military task force failed in there?

Next, suppose your deceased beloved one materializes next to you. Would your first impulse be to chat a bit and then simply kill that person again (as they're not real anyway), then watch them reappear, and then become emotionally attached to them again? Sounds weird, doesn't it? But that's what Clooney does in there.

This only gets worse in the ending. Clooney sees a vision of his own "clone" (cloone?:) on Earth, and decides to stay on the crash-coursed station. Why? For the sake of his dead wife that wasn't even there? Come on. But if it is so, what does this "Clooney-clone on Earth" stuff mean? It just doesn't make sense at all. The only thing that comes to my mind is "we are all clones created by someone", but I refuse to believe in such a banal idea, which actually doesn't fit in that moment anyway.


So what point the movie is trying to make, remains a mystery to me. "We live only for the ones we love, even when they're dead"? Please. "We only exist when someone remembers us"? Not explored enough. "Everything is just an illusion"?? Puh-leeease...!!

In a nutshell, the biggest problem with this movie was its pride. It presents itself like a piece of deep, meaningful art, giving time to think, to absorb, to conclude... but there is nothing to think of. The message is shallow and undecided, jumping from Harlequin romance to weary existence questions, like a hamburger served on a silver plate. There is nothing new in this movie, except exceptional boredom. It failed as a "cerebral movie", it failed as a SF, it failed as a romance. I'm sorry, but it is simply a bad movie defended only by an old "you don't like it because you don't understand it!" line. Yeah, been there, done that. 2/10.
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Incredibly banal
guy_lazarus29 November 2002
I did not walk into the movie theater with very high hopes for this film as Andrei Tarkovsky's version of Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel "Solyaris" is one of my all-time favorite films. However, I was not prepared for how incredibly banal Soderbergh's version turned out to be. This film is, quite frankly, a BOMB.

There is little to say other than the fact that despite Soderbergh's first-rate craftsmanship, as a director, he lacks power; he is not of the first-rank of cinema artists, not matter how much he strives to be. He is not even in Spielberg's class of being an uber-technician/craftsman as at least Speilberg, even at his most banal, can deliver the goods. The new "Solaris" IS BORING.

The film is a terrible misfire. Focusing on the relationship of Kelvin and his "wife" to all else saps the film of the power of Tarkovsky's classic, which I always characterized as a more intellectual "2001." This film lacks the philosophical power of the Tarkovsky film. In sum, Soderberg's version of "Solaris" is relentlessly SHALLOW.

Clooney is not appropriately cast, and his lack of acting chops robs the audience of identification as there is no character development that a fine actor like Kevin Spacey could give this role. Clooney's performance never really develops, his character never really changes; Kelvin, as played by Clooney, is a depressed wimp at the beginning and throughout the film. It's strange to see an actor as macho as Clooney playing a character on the border of hysteria. It might have made sense if we watched the character deteriorate, but as it was played, the character is poorly realized.

As for the other actors, Natasha McElhone is better than she was in FearDot.Com, and this is NOT like saying Pauley Shore was better in SON-IN-LAW than he was in BIO-DOME; she's not only beautiful, but gives a decent performance; however, what she lacks is star power, the charisma that a star like Julia Roberts can bring to a picture, thus making Kelvin's yearning and his ultimate decision more real. McElhone just isn't up to the demands of the role as realized in this film (as opposed to Tarkovsky's "Solyaris," where the character is not quite as prominent). She lacks weight. While I don't think it's her fault as much as the director's, many times she struck me as having been teleported in from a shampoo commercial. She is just there to look pretty in some interminable sequences that scream "STUDENT FILM." I guess this is Soderbergh's way of reclaiming his "art house" roots, but frankly, it's ridiculous, as is some of the dialogue, which is just plain bad, not even bad enough to border on camp (and thus give the audience some pleasure).

Jeremy Davies, who was so excellent in PRIVATE RYAN, quickly is solidifying his reputation as the worst actor on celluloid. Here, he channels the spirit of Travis Bickle, but Mr. Davies, you are no Robert DeNiro. It's becoming excruciating watching Davies in any movie; each movie, he is actually getting worse.

On an upbeat note, Viola Davis was good.

I voted this film a "2" (as the production design is excellent, as is the soundtrack), but is really is a BOMB.

Beware a Michaelangelo-inspired visual motif towards the end when Soderbergh really begins channeling the spirit of Stanley Kubrick.

Stephen, I knew Kubrick and you're not Kubrick, nor will you ever be.

The Web site for "Solaris" presents the film as being from two Academy Award winners, James Cameron and Soderbergh. Just remember: Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks and Martin Scorecese never won a Best Director Oscar; John G. Avildsen did. 'Nuff said.
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Interesting but not really fulfilling
JoelB12 December 2002
There are a number of good things about this movie, but ultimately it felt to me like a lost opportunity. It raised provocative psychological issues but never carried me away or led me to anything like an epiphany. In the latter half, I was in fact a bit bored. It certainly isn't enthralling like Tarkovsky's version. Rheya's character is better developed, particularly her own psychological trauma in being a "creation" (Tarkovsky's Rheya was something of a naif in comparison). But what I missed from Tarkovsky's version is the sense of humor (this one is stiflingly earnest) and the evocative and poignant use of Bach chorales in the soundtrack. The soundtrack to this one is intriguing (a la Brian Eno, Ligeti, and Thomas Newman's scores for The Player and American Beauty), but I eventually found myself desperately longing for a cadence. Lacking the feeling of redemption communicated musically in Tarkovsky's version, this one had to rely on ham-handed statements of fact. And finally, I can't help remarking that neither Tarkovsky nor Soderbergh really convey the element of shame and sexual deviance that played such an important part in Lem's original. Both place the emphasis instead on guilt, which isn't quite the same thing, is it?
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boring, undeveloped remake is a total waste; save your money
lilbuffguy1 December 2002
The first five minutes of this film are so torpid and dull, you just know you're in for something. You're hoping it's a set-up to pull the rug out from under you when you least expect it. Sadly, there is no rug; the rest of the movie remains at this underwater pace all the way to its unsatisfying and hokey ending.

The premise is intriguing enough, but little is done with it. Instead of focusing on the thriller (unraveling the mystery of Solaris), the back story of Clooney and his lost love takes over. This is dull beyond belief--partly because we know it's history and partly because Clooney's lover is a character that is so moody, aloof and unsympathetic that we really don't care about her at all. What should have been one flashback--or at most a montage--becomes almost half the film. And the wrap-up of the main story ensues without answering any of the mysteries of Solaris. We never know why it does what it does. There's nothing to spoil, here, folks. Because there are no surprises.

Then, as if the content weren't dull enough, they add insult to injury by filming the thing like a student film on a shoestring budget with unending tight shots and though they couldn't afford any sets. With the amount of money amassed by the talent involved, this is not just annoying--it's unacceptable. If it was an attempt at an effective use of claustrophobia, it failed miserably. As does the film. We were sold a sci-fi thriller with big names at the helm. What we got is a cheap, poorly conceived, dismally executed, plodding shaggy dog story that should be used to calm ulcer patients and nothing more.
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Do I get a refund?
rurapente17 June 2008
Some Scifi movies are classics. Some are Legends. This one just doesn't fit in anywhere. It tries so hard to be 2001 A Space Oddysey and falls so short its not funny.

Its so difficult to follow a few of us thought at one stage that the player was skipping to other parts on the disk. It makes no sense whatsoever and if it moved any slower....

I will give the film its due in that it is trying to be an arty scifi movie with more flair than pure scifi.But still, something thats that hard to follow just cant be appealing.

If you're a classic Scifi lover of action, aliens and at least some kind of story - then I would give this one a skip.
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Book = Sci-fi - Movie = Romance
bj-1922 October 2008
I recently read the book Solaris from Stanislav Lem which was recommended to me by a friend. I read the book and I liked it. I liked it because of Lems very detailed description of the forms which Solaris creates and the accidents which happened there. I really must say that this 'scientific' descriptions of the happenings there were quite interesting and at some parts scaring. After I read the book I found out that there was a movie about this book and - because I really wanted to see those forms, the surface of Solaris and to compare them to those in my imagination - I watched it. But I the movie heavily disappointed me.

Only about 10% of this movie represent the book. The rest is absolutely different. Different characters, different names and different storyline. Sorry, but this movie should not be allowed to be called Solaris. Read the book if you want some Science-Fiction. Watch the movie if you want a twisted Romance.
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Could have gone much deeper
blue__yoshi9 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
NOTE: Spoilers for Solyaris too.

For me this version stripped away a lot of what made Tarkovsky's Solyaris so interesting. Solaris turned into a more simple movie about a guy dealing with a regret. Perhaps it went a little larger, and was about dealing with painful memories. (I couldn't escape the sense that it was 9/11 influenced - from the scene early on with people talking in a room about their reactions to painful memories that was sounding a lot like 9/11). But overall it missed exploring the bigger questions that Solyaris raises. There's still more substance here than your average Hollywood film but I much preferred the way Tarkovsky went deeper into every idea.

Some interesting ideas from Solyaris that were only lightly explored in Solaris - Exploring the concept of creation - Solyaris created the living memories from the minds of the scientists so in a way Kelvin was the god of his dead wife. The way in which Hari was more aware than Rheya and fought more for her humanity made this connection more interesting. She did not just want to kill herself she and truly struggled with who she was and why she existed. (as humans could do as well if they are posed the right questions). She also eventually had to come to terms with the discovery that while they had were once been in love, their relationship had ended before her death (humanity abandoned by 'god'?). This changed in Soderbergh's Solaris and made it more focused on Kelvin's character and I felt weakened it overall because of it.

Solaris also missed the scientist's plan to beam their waking thoughts down to the surface so it could understand them better. There was no strong suggestion of threat as found in Solaris (another post 9/11 influence?). There was just curiosity from the planet and the possibility that human-like intelligence was not as unique as we often like to think.

I like the idea of having your memory brought to life, having to face it and interact with it, while also having it exposed in front of people you don't know, but Soderbergh's version made it all about Kelvin and missed some of the greater questions about humanity that Tarkovsky was able to explore.

Ignore the long car sequence (apparently kept in the film so he could justify his crew's trip to Japan), I recommend watching Solyaris if you can. It may be slower paced, but it eventually goes much deeper.
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New age gobbledygook.
senortuffy4 August 2003
This is ostensibly a story about a psychologist, George Clooney, who is sent to a space station orbiting Solaris to check on a mysterious malady that's affected the crew. But the story disintegrates into a lot of new age religious junk about man creating his own universe. It's pretty dull.

The only pluses are the beautiful Natascha McElhone, the set designs, and the interesting sound track by Cliff Martinez, who seems to have made a career scoring films for Steven Soderbergh.

The planet somehow is tapping into the humans' minds and creating beings from the images of people in their past. They have physical structure and awareness, but only as far as the person remembers them. Clooney's wife in real life committed suicide because she felt displaced and feared being left alone, so George tries to make amends with the alien life form taking her place.

If I could make sense of the muddled ending to the movie, I'd explain how things turn out, but the story falls apart and becomes incomprehensible. You get the sense that Solaris is supposed to be like Heaven or some form of afterlife, but it's not clear what the writers were thinking.

Movies about aliens used to depict them as threats. They were out to kill us, eat us, steal our women, take our planet away from us - basic caveman stuff. But there seems to be a trend towards depicting alien life in a godlike manner - "2001", "Contact", "Sphere", etc. - like they're omnipotent benefactors out to help us earthlings. Somewhere, there should be a middle ground where aliens act like any other physical being struggling to stay alive and make sense of this universe of ours.
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Diluted (minor spoilers)
K_A1 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I loved Stanislav Lem's novel for it's enigmatic mood, sophisticated humour and the thought-provoking speculation about conciousness and language. It's one of those few sci-fi stories where the techno-babble is actually interesting, rather than just a backdrop.

The movie has very little of all that. Soderbergh basically takes one of the most intriguing sci-fi novels available, removes everything that makes it interesting and presents the viewer with a massively tedious love story. Instead of subtle humour, there's a comic relief techie. Instead of filosophic speculation, there are countless closeups on Natascha McElhones face.

The ending really says it all. The novel ends with Kelvin sitting at Solaris' shores, touching the immense and silent gelatinous beast, feeling that some kind of understanding may be possible. The movie ends (surprise, surprise) with a spectacular explosion while the survivors scurry off to the rescue shuttle. That's right, standard Hollywood ending #1a. Aaargh!
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